Erie Vital Signs

We are making more but not much



  • Erie’s income per capita grew by about 1% from 2012 to 2013, to $37,729 for every Erie resident.
  • Erie’s income per capita is about 15.7% below the nation’s, and below the average of Erie’s 13 peers.
  • Total income earned by Erie County residents was over $10.5 billion in 2013.
  • Erie’s income per capita is up 13.6% from its recession low point in 2009.
  • The long run trend of Erie’s income is up, but not as much as for the nation and most of our peers.

Income is one of the most crucial, if not THE most crucial, indicator for any economy. As the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) says: “Per capita personal income is often used as an indicator of consumers' purchasing power and of the economic well-being of the residents of an area.” The BEA released new income data for metro areas last November, and as with so many economic variables, there is good news and bad news for the Erie Metro Area (i.e., Erie County).

The good news is that personal income per capita rose again in Erie in 2013, for the fourth year in a row, to $37,729 for every man, woman, and child in Erie County. That’s a total of over $10.5 billion of income for Erie County residents. Income per capita rose slightly less than 1.0% from 2012 to 2013, and it has grown 13.6% since its recession low point of $33,225 in 2009. The first graph below shows the pattern since 2000, with a clear upward trend.

But how does Erie’s income behavior compare to that of the nation and Erie’s peers? That’s the bad news. The Erie Vital Signs system has chosen 13 peer areas around the country against which we benchmark Erie’s performance. Graph 2 shows that Erie’s income continues to be lower than that of the nation and Erie’s 13 peer areas. While we gained a bit on the U.S. during the recession—notice that Erie’s income line didn’t fall as much as the nation’s during the recent recession—Erie’s income was still 15.7% below the nation’s in 2013.

Graph 3 shows how Erie compared to each of its 13 EVS peers, the U.S., and the state of Pennsylvania. In 2013, Erie had a higher income per capita than four of its peers, but lagged nine others and was 6.3% less than the average for the 13 peer areas. Moreover, Erie was 18.3% lower than the average income in the state of Pennsylvania. Not good news.

For more information on this EVS indicator, such as time-series data for Erie and its peers back to 2001, go to the EVS website Per Capita Income page directly. To answer the broader question “How is Erie doing?” go to the Erie Vital Signs website for data on the most important measures in seven key fields,

Erie Vital Signs (EVS) is a leadership initiative of the Erie Community Foundation. In partnership with the Economic Research Institute of Erie in the Black School of Business at Penn State Behrend, EVS tracks indicators that measure our county’s well-being in seven topical areas: Cultural Vitality, Community and Civic Engagement, Economy, Education, Environment, Health, and Regional Cooperation. Each topical area is overseen by a committee of informed experts who select the indicators to monitor, and review the interpretation of those indicators. The goal of EVS is to inform and inspire. We believe an increased focus on data and evidence-based decision-making will help create positive community change.

This Indicator Update was written by Dr. James Kurre, Director Emeritus, Economic Research Institute of Erie, in the Black School of Business, Penn State Behrend.

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